The Berean Expositor
Volume 31 - Page 138 of 181
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The Epistle to the Romans.
#85.  Romans 15: 8 - 16: 23.
Salutation, Warning and Benediction (16: 1 - 24).
pp. 1 - 11
We now take up the third and last subdivision (15: 8 - 16: 23) of this section dealing
with Gentile acceptance. As a sort of tail-piece, we find in chapter 16: a mingling of
the ministries belonging to men and women, and to the circumcision and the
uncircumcision.  Divisions are categorically condemned, and self-servers are to be
shunned. The holy kiss is to be given without consideration of nationality, and the whole
passage is coloured by the prophetic forecast in which Satan, the cause of all fleshly
religion and carnal divisions, is bruised "under your feet" by the God of Peace.
Beginning at the first verse of the chapter, we read:
"I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at
Cenchrea: that ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in
whatsoever business she hath need of you; for she hath been a succourer of many, and of
myself also" (Rom. 16: 1, 2).
The Apostle's "commendation" of Phebe was no empty conventionality. His own use
of the word in other passages makes it clear that it must have implied sterling worth in
the person commended.
"Not walking in craftiness, nor handling the Word of God deceitfully;  but by
manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight
of God" (II Cor. 4: 2).
"In all things commending ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in
afflictions, in necessities, in distress" (II Cor. 6: 4).
(See also II Cor. 7: 11, 10: 18 and 12: 11).
Phebe was a deaconess. Pliny, in his letter to Trajan in which he asks the Emperor
whether he is to punish people simply for being Christians, says that, scarcely crediting
the account he had received of the innocence of these Christians, he had put two
deaconesses (ex duabus ancillis quae ministrae dicebantur) to the torture, but had
discovered nothing beyond (as it appeared to him) perverted and immoderate superstition.
In the East, the ministry of deaconesses would be even more of a necessity than in the
modern West, for women did not then mix with men as they do here to-day. In the
Apostle's instructions to Timothy, it will be remembered that he told him to treat "the
elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity" (I Tim. 5: 2).
Something of the character of the ministry that was open to women can be seen in
such passages as the following in I Tim. 5::